Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lok Satta criticizes move to legalize belt shops

State Lok Satta Party President Katari Srinivasa Rao today sharply criticized the Excise Department proposal for legalization of illegal liquor outlets known as belt shops in the State on the ground their clsoure will lead to illicit distillation of liquor.

In a media statement, Mr. Srinivasa Rao recalled the Chief Minister had publicly announced his intention to close down belt shops in response to a long-standing demand from women. The Lok Satta Party had in the past launched a movement against belt shops as they played havoc with the health and finances of millions of people all over the State. The Government spent only a fraction of the revenue it earned on liquor on the so-called schemes meant for the welfare of the common person. Even as it ruined poor people's health by facilitating easy consumption of liquor, it claimed to take care of their health through schemes like Aarogyasri.

Mr. Srinivasa Rao demanded that the Chief Minister keep his pledge by ensuring that all belt shops are shut down as early as possible. He should not allow his ministerial colleagues to get away by claiming there are no belt shops in the State.

Mr. Srinivasa Rao said the Government would be abdicating its right to govern if it admits that it cannot control illicit distillation in the wake of belt shop clsoure.

The Lok Satta had already suggested that the Government empower and enable village panchayats and self-help groups to control illicit distillation. It can even stipulate that failure to control illicit distillation will result in the elected panchayat being dissolved.

Mr. Srinivasa Rao reiterated the Lok Satta Party demand that the Government itself run liquor outlets instead of allocating them to private individuals. Belt shops cannot be eliminated as long as private operators are in place as proliferation of belt shops will boost their sales, revenue and profits. The Government should effect the change in the new excise year, which is round the corner.

The Lok Satta Party, Mr. Srinivasa Rao said, would like the Government to restrict liquor consumption by limiting the number of official outlets and their working hours, shut down all illegal outlets and put down with an iron hand illicit distillation and gudumba manufactaure.

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